When we first met, you were the sickly one –
All tangled hair and sweat inside your tent.
I had a child’s distaste of, and need to shun
The ill and found no reason to repent,
Deserting camp and picking loquats – less
Guilty still, when we tried in groups of four
(at thirteen, too: imagine our success)
Cocksure, to hitch-hike 5 k’s to the store.
But there are no more leper colonies –
In health (not this same summer but another),
Too far from the beach, we tripped and skinned our knees,
Though I still tried to charm your gentle brother,
And you, thin-skinned and just as sharp and sweet
As stolen, golden, dripping loquat meat.
I said I disliked vaporetti, dear.
“They’re too expensive and slippery in the rain!”
But you, on foot, would probably miss your train.
Unsaid: It’s not the money, it’s the fear
That with my pack strapped on I’d miss the pier
And slip in the canal, not seen again.
Onshore, to toast to Venice, to maintain
The buoyant mood, we pause to seek out beer,
And somewhere, secular steps on which to booze.
The coat with golden cocks in appliqué
On velvet was your great regret, you sigh.
I breathe and count the fissures in my shoes.
A task at hand gives you the right of way
And pigeons scatter in the wake of your goodbye.